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Last Updated on April 22, 2020

Want to Know What Truly Motivates You, and How to Always Stay Motivated?

Want to Know What Truly Motivates You, and How to Always Stay Motivated?

When was the last time you wanted something very badly? Can you think of what drove you towards wanting that desire? And, if you did eventually achieve it, what were your motivations behind that?

When it comes to chasing after something you want, whether it’s a dream job, the car or house you’ve been dying to own, or even the love of your life, there are many forces that attract you towards that desire. Have a walk down memory lane, and think of the last time you were chasing after something that you eventually got, and think about what you went through to get it. What pushed you to get it?

What’s the Force Behind Your Desires?  

Chances are, if you were to look back at your journey towards that achievement, you would realize that at the heart of your motivation was having a specific Purpose. This is the most important driving factor allowing you to be motivated to work hard, or to find for solutions and ways to achieving your ultimate desire.

It’s important to have a purpose or objective, because once you have that meaningful objective, it creates a force that either pushes you forward or pulls you towards it. This push and pull is the basic driving force behind every type of motivation. Motivation can be broken down into two types: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Understanding these two types of motivation will give you greater control over your self-motivation.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Let’s take a look at Extrinsic Motivation first. This occurs when we’re motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Examples of this sort of motivation include working overtime on a project because you want some form of approval from your boss, or arriving to work on time to avoid being reprimanded by your boss. An extrinsic motivator could also be competing in a contest to win a cash prize or award.

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In each of these examples, the behavior is motivated by a desire to gain a reward or avoid an adverse outcome. It’s common for individuals to engage in a behavior not because they enjoy it or find it satisfying, but to get something in return or avoid something unpleasant. This type of motivation is due to an external factor.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Now on the other hand, Intrinsic Motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding. So in this case, you’re now doing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward or factor. So this could be wanting to play your favorite songs on the guitar, or watching a comedy at the cinema.

These behaviors are motivated by internal desire. In other words, the behavior itself is the reward, and doesn’t have to be supplied by an external source. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.

When was the last time you did something simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself?

What’s the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation?

The key difference between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation is that Extrinsic Motivation relies on an external reward or penalty, whereas Intrinsic Motivation rewards the behavior itself. If you now go back to think about the desires or achievements that you had in the past, were they extrinsically or intrinsically motivated?

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The reason why many fail to find sustained drive is because they rely a lot on External Motivation. If you want to have long term and sustainable motivation, you really need more of it to be driven by Intrinsic Motivation. Why is that?

The answer is simple. Extrinsic Motivation relies on external rewards or penalties. Once that reward or penalty is gone, this source of motivation will disappear. Also, external rewards or penalties are always finite, and you’re usually not in control of them.

On the other hand, with Intrinsic Motivation — the activity itself is already the reward. So its supply of “motivation fuel” can virtually be unlimited if nurtured properly.

How to Maximize Intrinsic Motivation?

Now that you know the importance of Intrinsic Motivation, the next step would be to maximize it and make it sustainable. As I mentioned earlier, Intrinsic Motivation is the key to long term, sustainable objectives. But, just having a meaningful objective is not enough. To make the most out of it, you have to nurture your Intrinsic Motivation.

It’s important to do so because Intrinsic Motivation can have diminishing returns. For example, you’re feeling thirsty, the weather is warm and you really just want to drink a can of Coke. It’d be great if you could have a coke in hand. Once you have it, it’s so satisfying drinking it. But, imagine I give you a second can, then a third can, and how about a fourth one? Your satisfaction will eventually diminish and you might even get sick of it. So this law of diminishing return occurs everywhere, even for our Intrinsic Motivation.

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How can you Increase Intrinsic Motivation?

Before you can begin nurturing your Intrinsic Motivation, it’s good to know the factors that make up Intrinsic Motivation. This will equip you to level up on your Intrinsic Motivation better.

1. Challenge

The first factor is Challenge. It’s important to set a challenge in your objectives. Then the process of attaining that goal is seen as possible, but not necessarily certain. This way when you eventually overcome every obstacle to achieve that goal, that directly increases your self -esteem.

2. Curiosity

The second factor to maximizing Intrinsic Motivation, is having Curiosity. This is when something in the physical environment grabs your attention (sensory curiosity) or when the activity stimulates you to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).

3. Control

The third factor is Control. This is the ability to have greater control over yourself and/or your environment so that you can determine what you pursue.

4. Cooperation and Competition

Lastly, we have Cooperation and Competition. This is the satisfaction that you gain from helping others, or pursuing a shared goal through mutual support and camaraderie.

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It could also be the excitement and satisfaction from putting your skills and performance against others, and using it as a yardstick to push your own progress.

Nurture Your Intrinsic Motivation

Now that you know the main factors contributing to Intrinsic Motivation, you can focus on nurturing each factor to level up your Intrinsic Motivation. How can you maximize on each factor to increase your Intrinsic motivation when pursuing after something?

Once you’ve nurtured your Intrinsic Motivation, you’ll start to rely less on Extrinsic Motivations and you’ll find that your perseverance and drive to achieve something becomes much more enhanced.

You will find greater autonomy and independence too, knowing that you need not rely on external sources for acknowledgement, recognition or rewards. This in itself will already be very satisfying.

Applying one of the 7 Cornerstone Skills as covered in this article can already make a difference in your life, imagine learning the whole set of skills to live your best life! How to learn them all? We’ve got the solution at Lifehack — Find out More About Our Solution Here!

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/B-EKZBoxKhY via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 28, 2020

What Am I Doing With My Life? Find Your Answer Here

What Am I Doing With My Life? Find Your Answer Here

“What am I doing with my life?” As a life coach and business consultant, I hear this question – or some version of it – all the time. Those asking the question are likely facing one of a couple scenarios.

One, you wake up one morning and find yourself in a job you hate, a relationship you don’t want to be in, or a life that has little resemblance to the one you had imagined. You might be feeling low, filled with frustration, shame, or regret. This is not where you wanted to be at this time in your life…it’s not the life you wanted to live.

Or maybe you don’t feel unhappy or lost, but you wake up and realize you want something more, new, or different. You may have accomplished many of the things you’d imagined for your life, and now you’re trying to figure out what to do next.

My job as a coach and consultant is to support my clients to be happier, more successful and fulfilled. To help them get from where they are to where they want to be, uncovering obstacles along the way. This usually involves working through a process and asking powerful questions so they can discover the answers to their biggest questions – including this one.

What’s Wrong With Your Life?

One of the very first things I share with my clients is this: you don’t have to figure out what you want to do with the entire rest of your life!

You don’t have to work out what you want to be when you “grow up” or discover your entire life’s purpose. You don’t have to commit to a career for the next 20 years. I see so many people paralyzed by thinking they must work everything out for the entire rest of their lives. Of course, they feel stressed and overwhelmed!

Instead, focus on identifying what’s next. At this age, in this stage, facing your current circumstances and ideas of personal development. I’m not saying this won’t be attached to a bigger vision, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the whole plan right now. I love MLK’s quote:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step.”

The same is true for figuring out what you’re doing with your life.

How to Answer the Question – What Am I Doing with My Life?

Back to the question. Let’s look at a couple of my recent clients.

Sabine* was a smart, successful, vibrant woman. She already had several successful jobs during her career, traveled the world, had a family, and was settling back in a new city. While she originally called wanting to take her business to the next level, we soon realized that wasn’t what she really needed or wanted.

She was trying to figure out what she was doing with her life. For her, this meant realizing she had lost her sense of self. While no one would know from the outside, she was feeling overwhelmed, lost, and unsure of herself. She was doing all the “right” things for everyone around her, but she wasn’t doing all the right things for her.

Together, we were able to help Sabine:

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  • Get a clear picture of what she wanted for this next stage in her life.
  • Align her life and actions with her value and priorities.
  • Remember who she was and feel more like herself than she had in years.
  • Regain confidence and take action on things she had been avoiding.
  • Gain motivation, self-trust, and security in her decisions.

Then, there’s Max*. Incredibly smart, fun and motivated, Max had successfully climbed up through his career ladder and was happily married with his first child. Life was good.

He came to me because he was in the second scenario; Max was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next. Even though he had a great job, he was looking for more – something new, different, challenging and interesting.

In our time together, Max was able to:

  • Identify his priorities and what was important in this next stage of life (and what wasn’t).
  • Pinpoint several new career options.
  • Uncover and work through old, limiting beliefs and thought patterns.
  • Start exploring potential new careers.

Here’s the process and the questions I walked through with Sabine and Max. Following these will help you make progress towards identifying what you’re doing with your life too:

Step 1: What Do You Want?

Whenever you’re asking “What am I doing with my life?”, it’s important to take a step back, look at the big picture, and identify what you want. Frankly, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get it?

This seems simple, yet it’s often quite hard to address. When I ask this question, people often tell me what they don’t want or what’s not working. They’ve gotten into the habit of making decisions based on what’s best for their career, friends and family, or others and forget to think about what they want for themselves[1].

Sabine originally thought she wanted to “take her business to the next level,” but when she dug deeper, she realized there was so much more. She ultimately found that she wanted to feel like herself again; to feel secure, trust and assert herself, and regain her sense of self.

Max wanted to love what he was doing. He wanted to be in a career (or role) that he was energized and “jazzed” about.

Your Turn:

What do you want? Get specific.

Is it a new career in which you feel excited and energized? A relationship where you feel honored and loved? To be confident and happy with yourself? To live in a particular place or to explore the world?

Maybe, like Sabine, when you think you have your answer, ask yourself, “what else?” and see what comes up.

Once you are clear on what you want, you can move to the next question.

Step 2: Who Are You?

Self-awareness and a little soul searching is critical for success – especially when you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life.

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Understanding yourself at a deeper level and making decisions based upon those insights will ensure that whatever you choose to do next is something that will make you happier, more successful, and more fulfilled. It will make sure that your next step is a step in the right direction, not just another step.

While I take my clients through a series of many questions, here are a few of my favorites:

  • What is most important to you right now?
  • What are your core values? What are the beliefs, guiding principles, or ideas that are deeply important to you? Which ones are you off track with?
  • What are your passions? What gets you engaged, motivated, excited?
  • What are your skills and talents? Which would you like to use going forward?
  • What is your wish list? What do you want and need in your life/career/relationship? This might include the type of environment you thrive in, people you want to be surrounded by, or something you want in a role.
  • What is the impact or difference you want to make? How do you want to serve, contribute or add value?
  • What do you NOT want? While you don’t want to spend too much time in this space, it’s as important to be aware of what you don’t want as much as what you do!

In her soul searching, Sabine identified that she needed to find and surround herself with her “people,” uncovered what she needed to feel safe and secure, learned she needed to delegate more, and discovered that her direct approach was getting in her way.

Max realized what was most important to him at this stage of his life, identified the limiting beliefs that were getting in his way, learned to stop comparing himself to others, and realized how important it was to infuse humor and joy into his everyday life.

Your Turn:

Grab a journal. Ask yourself these questions and allow the time and space to discover the answers.

Write everything down. Then, review what you wrote and highlight or circle what stands out or resonates the most. These are what you want to pay attention to as you move forward and think about what you’re doing next with your life.

Then, with a little soul-searching under your belt, it’s time to move on to step 3.

Step 3: What Are Your Options?

If you’re asking “What am I doing with my life?” you’re clearly not happy where you are. You know you want something else. But what is that “something”? This question allows you to explore your potential options.

At this point, it’s not about deciding the one thing or making the right choice; it’s about allowing your creative mind to expand and see all the possibilities.

If you hate your career, what new potential careers are on your mind? If you’re unhappy in your relationship, what can you do? If you’re feeling like you need change or an adventure, what could those possibly be?

Brainstorm ALL your options without worrying about whether they are possible or not (just yet). Make a list and keep asking yourself….what else? This allows you to dig deeper and see opportunities you might have otherwise not explored.

Your Turn

What are all of your possible options at this point in time? Don’t limit them if you can’t see how it’s possible, just get all your ideas out on paper.

Once you have your list of options, then you can move to the next step.

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Step 4: Which Options Are the Best Fit Right Now?

Okay, so you have your list of options and possibilities. Now it’s time to narrow it down and explore those options in a little more depth.

Once Max had a complete list of potential career options (including advancing in his current role), he narrowed the list down to the top most interesting and compelling opportunities. We then worked through each of those in greater depth.

A fantastic way to do this is to envision your life “as if” you were in that new role/situation/relationship.

Max imagined himself living the life in his new career options. First, he imagined himself as an REI employee. Yes, he had grown a beard and was drinking from a metal mug.

But the next question was even more important. I asked him how he felt. He said while he was excited to be outdoors more, he realized he wouldn’t be fulfilled in that role. He definitely didn’t feel “jazzed.”

We went through all his options, envisioning what life would be like in each role until he found the one in which he felt the most connected. We could both feel a shift in his energy immediately…he was on to something.

Your Turn

Go back to your options list and circle the 1-3 that you feel most connected to, energized by, or engaged with. You’ll want to make sure those options fit what you want (question 1) and who you are (question 2).

Once you have a short list, imagine your life as if you took that as your next step. What would you think, feel, hear, and see? Does it feel good? You can also do some research at this point to learn more about each of your options.

Then, armed with information and an idea of the next best option for you, it’s time to move on to the next question.

Step 5: What’s Stopping You?

This is a big one. As you explore your options, it’s likely you may come up against some barriers.

Perhaps you have fears or limiting beliefs of what you can or can’t do or what someone said you were capable of. Maybe it’s lack of self-esteem or confidence.

When these come up, it doesn’t mean the option is wrong; it just means you need to dig a bit further to find out what’s going on. It’s important to explore what’s getting in your way.

With Max, he was being held back by a deep, long-time belief that he wasn’t good enough – that he wasn’t capable of taking on a higher level, higher risk role. We worked together until he could move past this perception and on to his next step.

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Your Turn

Think about what’s getting in your way or stopping you from moving forward. Once again, don’t stop at your first answer. Ask yourself “what else?” until you identify what’s getting in your way.

Then, it’s time to move to the last question.

Step 6: What Can You Do to Move Forward?

You’ve narrowed down and explored your options, and now it’s time to take action to get past asking yourself “What am I doing with my life?” I know this part is hard.

What if it isn’t right? What if there is something else out there? What if it’s the worst decision I ever make?

These are all real and good questions, but not if they stop you from moving forward towards a more fulfilling life[2]. If you’re feeling hesitant about taking the next step, let me give you a different way to look at it.

If you’re unhappy where you are now, what is the bigger risk: staying where you are out of fear of doing the wrong thing OR moving forward and seeing where it leads you? It’s better to rock the boat than to die sinking in it, right?

Once you’ve decided, it’s time to act. What’s your first step? Take it.

Give yourself a deadline, a timeline, or a goal to make it happen so you can move from ideas to reality.

Your Turn

Make a decision about which option is best for you to move forward into the life you want. Then, take the first step towards that option. Then, the next and the next one after that.

Take a look at these 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck.

Final Thoughts

So, what are YOU doing with your life?

Just the sheer fact that you’re asking yourself what you’re doing with your life is a step in the right direction. A mentor of mine always said that 90% of solving a problem is awareness that it exists. You know you need to do something.

Now, if you’re serious about moving forward, it’s time to take the time and put in the effort and answer the questions above. Then, like Sabine and Max, be willing to take action, even if you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to play out.

It’s your life, and, yes, it can be everything you’ve imagined.

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Featured photo credit: Abigail Keenan via unsplash.com

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